By Audrey Quinn
Posting in Environment
As drought ravages much of U.S. farmland, Monsanto sees a 24% rise in stock shares with its drought-tolerant GM corn.
As a record-breaking drought ravages much of the U.S. farmland, Co.Exist reports this week on the resurgence in popularity of dry farming. Michael J. Coren writes:
During the rainy season, farmers break up soil then saturated with water. Using a roller, the first few inches of the soil are compacted and later form a dry crust, or dust mulch, that seals in the moisture against evaporation.
Crops planted in the water-saving soil live off this reserved moisture instead of irrigation. Water stress concentrates sugar and nutrients in the crops making them extra flavorful. But, dry farming yields are often one-third the size of those from more industrial farms, Coren reports.
Monsanto has another idea for facing the water shortage. The agriculture biotechnology company has been testing out drought-resistant corn seeds. The genetically modified corn takes up water more gradually from the soil, so it needs less of the wet stuff overall. Select farmers have tested the experimental strain this year, and it's slated for wider release in 2013, the Washington Post reports. DuPont and Syngenta also have new drought-resistant strains, though they claim their seeds are hybrids that take advantage of natural corn traits rather than genetic engineering.
Monsanto shares rose 24% this year, thanks in part to excitement over the new drought-resistant strain, SmartMoney reports. But not everyone's excited about the company's approach. Wired's Brandon Keim reports on the new drought-resistant seeds:
None have been tested in large-scale, real-world conditions, and the claims made for them are cautious: They won’t flourish during droughts, but might do a bit better than existing plants, hopefully surviving for one more rainfall.
If they work as advertised, the varieties could be quite useful in droughts of low to moderate intensity. Their utility in the crucible that much of the central and western United States is expected to become, however, will likely be limited.
I'm reminded of college ecology lectures on how we can't innovate our way out of climate change. I agree with that message -- pro-active measures to fight climate change should be prioritized -- but that doesn't remove the fact that these droughts are happening and farmers still need to put food on our tables (and money in their pockets). Most likely a combination of new seed technologies and old agriculture methods like dry farming will provide our best defense against the inevitable loss of precipitation over our farmland.
Sep 4, 2012
My feelings towards Monsanto may strike some as a [i]LITTLE[/i] extreme: I tend to think of Monsanto as an agent of the Evil One. The number of suicides in India among farmers is increasing because so many of them bought into the Monsanto line about bigger yields; now they are going broke because they can't afford to buy new seed every year. (Before Monsanto came, farmers would save seeds from some of what they grew and plant that every year.) Plus, there are the farmers in North America who are getting strong-armed into planting Monsanto seed. The Monsanto pollen is blowing in from some other farmer's field and contaminating the farmer's crops. Monsanto goons then come in and threaten to sue the farmer into bankruptcy for theft of intellectual property (allowing the cross-pollenated crops to grow) unless the farmer agrees to buy and plant Monsanto seed exclusively for the next 10 years or so.
"we canât innovate our way out of climate change" So what are solar, wind, hydro, biofuels, and nuclear? Every single one of them requires massive innovation, engineering, and complex production chains to implement. You really need to qualify that statement, it makes no sense as it stands. If it's taken verbatim from one of your lectures, your professors live in ivory towers -- which only exist because of massive innovation.
I am afraid we are missing something here. The world is still emitting 80 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere every day. So it will get worse next year. And if we lose the Arctic ice caps, Global Warming could become unstoppable (see http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/08/26/745571/why-the-arctic-sea-ice-death-spiral-matters/). We are not going to save ourselves with GMO crops. We have to reduce our carbon emissions to zero and then wait 200 years for the carbon levels to come down.
Monsanto has only one motive for developing GM crops. Total control of the global food supply. How clever of them to have a developed drought resistant strains just as the USA suffers the worst drought for a generation. [i](sarcasm intended)[/i] Watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEfJO0-cTis
We need to grow crops that weather droughts while we wait for rain. . . not introduce something we won't like later on, for its impacts on our environ. Money shouldn't be the prime motivation.
If we have to reduce our carbon emissions to zero, then we are doomed. Even with solar and wind, we still have to run big farm equipment on oil products. Nobody has an electric engine plus batteries that can compete with diesel or gas for big projects. And anybody who thinks we can feed 7 billion people without mechanized agriculture has no understanding of food production. Even organic farms have to use big farm machines to make a profit. The alternative is going back to subsistence farming, where each family has to grow its own food and 95% of us have to move back to the farms. Good luck with that.
People who fear that Monsanto wants to take total control of our food supply overlook the fact that Monsanto already has a big share of the non-GM seed market. If they introduce GM seeds which are demonstratively better than non-GM seeds, how does that suddenly make them worse than they already are? Farmers aren't forced to buy from them unless their GM seeds give them a huge advantage, in which case we all benefit.
Why shouldn't profit be the prime motivation? Why is "profit" a dirty word? Monsanto has to answer to its shareholders and its customers, and it will be here tomorrow only if it makes a profit today. That's called capitalism, and it's the system under which the US operates.